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Veasey, Garcia Clash Over Building F-35 Plane

During last night’s KERA debate, Democrats running for Congress in District 33 disagreed over Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Air Force jet. It’s built in Fort Worth by thousands of workers. State Representative Marc Veasey from Fort Worth favors the fighter. Former Dallas State Representative Domingo Garcia has concerns.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has its Congressional and military critics. They say it’s over budget, behind schedule, wrong for the times, and fraught technical problems. Former House member Domingo Garcia, a self-described amateur history and war-plane buff, agrees. He said the F-35 is a bad bet for Fort Worth workers.

"I don’t believe in wasting tax payer dollars. I believe we’ve got to get a good bang for the buck. I think it’s dangerous and jeopardizes jobs to put all the money into F-35s," Garcia said.

Garcia has been criticized by opponent Marc Veasey, who lives in Fort Worth, because F-35 contracts can keep thousands of Lockheed Martin workers employed for years. Veasey said just wait, the F-35 will prove itself just at the F-16 did.

"When the F-16 first was rolled out, there were many problems in the development. There were cost issues, and it ended up being one of the best planes the military has ever seen and kept this country protected and kept many jobs in the North Texas area," Veasey said.

But Garcia says he’s looking out for Lockheed Martin workers. That’s why he opposes the F-35.

"I think the F-16s, and the new versions of the F-16 and the F-22s is what will keep the jobs at Lockheed Martin. Orders for the F-35 have just been cancelled by the Netherlands. And they might cancel altogether. We believe that’s going to cause a ripple effect and jeopardize the jobs at Lockheed Martin. That’s why it’s important that we don’t put all our eggs in one basket," Garcia said.

But Representative Veasey says at the end of the day, the F-35 will be a fighter Fort Worth can be proud of. As he looks at the makeup of the new 33rd Congressional District, Veasey says there’s another reason he also supports the plane’s maker, Lockheed Martin.

" It was an employer in its early time that would give an African American or Hispanic an opportunity to earn a good income," he said.

All is not assured for the Joint Strike Fighter. The Defense Department is set to slice a half a trillion dollars off its budget over the next decade, and those cuts could start at the beginning of next year.

You can hear the entire half-hour debate between Marc Veasey and Domingo Garcia at 10 p.m. on KERA TV, Channel 13. It airs on KERA 90.1 Sunday at 5 p.m.  Or, watch below:

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.